Circulation is a moody, hard to classify film that is often confusing, most of the time intentionally. The point is sometimes hard to figure out, but the ride along the way is intriguing enough, if not what would be described as fun.
Circulation is set in Mexico, and the dry landscape and dusty scrub brush set a tone of emptiness and almost unreality from the outset. The film involves the intersection of the lives (sort of) of Ana (Yvonne Delarosa) and Gene (Sherman Koltz). Ana is taking a day trip to visit her boyfriend at the Hotel Azul. Unbeknownst to her, her ex-husband has sabotaged her car, and it overheats in the middle of nowhere. He and his friends follow her and, when the car breaks down, beat her and throw her in to the back of a pickup truck. To what end, the viewer does not know, but it is clearly nefarious. Not being a shy and reserved type, Ana fights back ferociously, causing the truck to crash.
Some time later, Ana wakes up, with a broken arm and lots of bruises, and finding the others in the truck dead or unconscious, stumbles back to her car. At this point, Gene pulls up in his camper and offers Ana a ride. A couple of things complicate this. First, Gene speaks no Spanish and Ana speaks no English, which makes communication between the two difficult. Second, in the opening scene, in the narration, Gene states quite clearly that he died in 1989. The viewer is left to determine whether he is speaking metaphorically or is actually a dead man who drives around in a camper, drinks beer, sleeps and feels the need to occasionally relieve himself by the side of the road.
The story becomes even more bizarre from this point on. When Ana and Gene arrive at the Hotel Azul (Ana has refused to be taken to the hospital) they find that it is a half completed ruin, abandoned for years. Ana's boyfriend is nowhere to be found. Later, at Ana's home, her dead brother sits watching nature documentaries, while another man vomits on a corpse on the floor. (This last is a common activity in the world of Circulation, happening four or five times.) Gene casually shoots the vomiting man, wraps him in rope and drags him back to the camper. And so forth.
It is pointless to describe the plot further because the plot is not the point. Circulation is all about the mood and the look. The performances are subtle, but strong. Delarosa and Koltz as the leads are both excellent. They are often as mysterious to the viewer as they are to each other. Their inability to communicate is the metaphor for the whole film, which never tips its hand or reveals what it is all about. The empty desert, the strange people (even the ones not vomiting on corpses), the circular nature of events and the relentless ex-husband who tracks Ana by her smell all contribute to the dreamlike, or rather nightmare like, atmosphere. It is an atmosphere that director Ryan Harper maintains almost flawlessly.
One drawback to this focus on atmosphere and mood is that it crowds out more satisfying film conventions such as character development and storylines that can be followed and understood. Not a lot really happens in the film. There is a surplus of driving around in trucks, and walking through the desert and the occasional stop in a dress shop, but things progress at a lazy pace. There is sort of rising action, and a kind of climax (involving an actual explosion), but in this world nothing much ever changes. This is intentional, but it leaves the viewer a bit nonplussed at the end. This opacity of theme or meaning makes Circulation a very interesting film, but not one that could be described as fun to watch. Still, it is definitely worth a viewing, and succeeds quite well at its intended aims.
Overall, the extra features are slight and add little to the viewing experience. This kind of dense and opaque film could have benefited significantly from some in depth extra material, but unfortunately it is not present here.